Plenty has changed since DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu were last in MLS, but while the two recent recruits may still be adjusting to the novelty of their surroundings, they are very familiar with each other.
The U.S. internationals are set to face off on opposite sides on Friday night at BBVA Compass Stadium as the Dynamo host the Philadelphia Union in a big Eastern Conference clash (8 p.m. CT; TICKETS), but five years ago they were title-winning teammates.
The two played together for Rangers in Scotland and celebrated winning the 2008-09 Scottish league championship by jogging across the field at Ibrox Stadium waving an American flag. At 28, Edu is four years Beasley’s junior. Like the Dynamo man, he quickly made a splash in MLS then headed across the Atlantic to try his luck in Europe.
Edu joined Philadelphia in January on loan from English Premier League club Stoke City and has made 20 league starts for the Union. He was Rookie of the Year in 2007 with Toronto FC and has 46 U.S. caps. “Good player, one of those guys on the fringe of making the World Cup team, I maybe thought he deserved a chance,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear.
“He can play at the back, can play in midfield, guy knows what he’s doing. He’s been a good player in the league, went overseas and played an important role for Rangers and then kind of bounced around a little bit. But he’s still a young man and still a good player.”
Beasley was primarily a winger at Rangers but is likely to be in defense on Friday. Edu and recent Dynamo signing Luis Garrido will be competing for mastery of central midfield. Houston playmaker Boniek García believes that his fellow Honduran has made a strong start to life in MLS since joining from C.D. Olimpia.
“I think he’s done great, I think he’s been giving us that bite, that extra presence in the midfield that we were kind of missing for most of the season. He’s one of those guys who can get the ball back, when before that was something we were kind of missing,” Garcia told HoustonDynamo.com through a translator.
The Dynamo felt they were unlucky to lose 2-0 to the Seattle Sounders on the artificial turf at CenturyLink Field last Sunday, especially after producing a solid performance in the first half. “I feel that we had a good game,” said Garcia. “The field contributed to the outcome and some of the things that happened during the game obviously didn’t help us but overall I think we played really well for most of the game and I think we’re pretty much happy with the way we performed.”
The 29-year-old has one goal and one assist so far this season, numbers that are down on the previous two years. Still, the raw statistics do not reflect his importance to the team, his busy performances or his creative ability. With his international teammate patrolling midfield, Garcia is optimistic that he will be liberated to spend more time causing havoc in opposition penalty boxes in the remaining third of the season.
“I think so, not only myself but also Brad [Davis] and Rico [Clark], we feel a little bit more free, more able to go forward and not have to worry about getting back as quickly because we know that Luis Garrido’s back there taking care of the middle of the field,” he said. Last year the Dynamo twice beat the Union 1-0 thanks to goals from Clark.
“I know that this is the point in the season where things get ever more important, contributions are needed from everybody, no exceptions, so I’ll definitely make the effort to give more offensively,” Garcia said.
Jason Johnson saw his first MLS action for two months against Seattle, replacing Will Bruin, who picked up an ankle injury during the match. The 23-year-old forward has spent much of the season on loan to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Pro division.
“I thought he did pretty good, he found himself in some decent spots, took a while to get into the game. We didn’t know he was going in until we were walking out on the field at halftime and Will was walking out and said he didn’t feel so good. He did OK. I think it shows that he’s been playing a little bit, he felt more confident stepping out on the field because of his time with Pittsburgh,” said Kinnear.
The head coach knows the significance of Friday’s encounter. Philadelphia currently occupy the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoffs place. They have already played in Texas this week, beating FC Dallas on penalties after extra time to reach the final of the U.S. Open Cup.
“Obviously they’ve got to feel confident after that Open Cup win, it gives teams a good boost. But for us you look at the standings, we’re five points behind them with that game in hand so a three point win is a big one for us because it’d pull us a little bit closer to them and hopefully a couple of other teams,” Kinnear said.